C.C. is a strong person and a survivor who says, “It takes a strong person to deal with this. I’ve never been in denial. Denial = death.”
HIV Closet… A lot of people go into the closet and they don’t want to say that they’re gay so they live their life in the closet. If you’re told that you’re HIV positive it creates a whole other closet, the HIV closet where you hide. You don’t just casually tell people, “I’m HIV positive” like you would if you had cancer. You can say, “I have cancer.” Everybody is okay with that. You cannot say you’re HIV positive and expect a positive response. It’s similar to gay people. They’re really kind of the same. The only difference is we’re talking about a virus as opposed to a lifestyle. The closet is still the closet. The immediate response is negative.
Living under a question mark… I’m living my life as an HIV positive person, but I’ve been living that way for 26 years under a question mark because I don’t know what is going to happen. I don’t know if I’m going to live or die. I don’t know if the medicine is going to stop working. Either way it’s a big old question mark. Any day now everything can go sideways and the medicine might stop working, or they’ll tell me you got 5 million blah, blah, blah. I guess you can say it’s kind of fear because I just don’t know what is going to happen. None of us know what is going to happen. What the doctor tells me does give me more confidence, but the question mark is still there. They don’t know everything. I don’t know everything. Luckily I can still use any medications on the chart that still exist today. For real, I can go back to the very first drug that was used. That helps make that question mark a little smaller but it’s still there.
Damned if you do and damned if you don’t… We have the LGBT flag saying be proud of who you are. With the ribbon we’re saying have compassion for those people who have passed on and those who are living with HIV and AIDs and complications. Then in another breath (pair of handcuffs) we’re criminalizing it by saying that we will throw you in prison. We will give you a felony whether you know you were HIV positive or not. It’s really odd how society does that… You’re telling us to be proud of who we are, and then you’re telling us to be sympathetic to those who are HIV positive. They’re saying we’re going to put you in prison and give you a felony. Which is it going to be? Take your pick? You can’t have both.
Is that what you think? My mother and my nephew came over one afternoon. My nephew was like, “I want a hotdog” and I just happened to have hotdogs. I made hotdogs and gave him some water because he was thirsty. Then what happened in the midst of all of that, my mother forgot that he had asked for a glass of water. She thought that the glass of water sitting there was mine, and so when he reached for the glass of water to take a drink she almost jumped out of her pantyhose. Of course that didn’t make me feel any better. You would think my own mother wouldn’t do that. Her reaction was outrageous, nothing short of violent. I’m like now there you’ve got some stigma.
Think about it for a minute. You think that you can get HIV from drinking behind someone who is HIV positive? I said, “mother, you cannot get HIV from drinking behind someone who is HIV positive”. It’s just not going to happen. It was in my face. I felt horrible but I just wanted to make sure that she understood you cannot get HIV from drinking behind someone who is HIV positive. The stigma is still there. You can talk until you’re blue in the face. A person’s reactions are going to hit you a lot harder than something someone says.
Even today some people see it as a death sentence. I go by a person’s actions. My mother … she’s not a bad person, don’t get me wrong, she just does some things that are questionable. She inadvertently or on purpose when I came back to Kansas City I said, “could you watch some of my things until I get a new apartment or a new place to live?” She gave away some of my things. I’m like. “Mother!” She did it without talking to me. I interpreted that as you didn’t think I was going to live very long so you just gave my stuff away.
Another example is for my father it took 26 years for me to call him on the phone to tell him that I was HIV positive, and for him to apologize for the horrific things he did to me when I was 12. Why would you wait until I call you on the phone and then you think I’m going to die before you say these words, “I’m sorry for anything I did to you when you were a child? I really apologize for that.” Now you tell me because you think I’m going to die? Even in his mind he thought it was a death sentence or else he would have never apologized. If I die then he wouldn’t be able to say anything. Once again I was going by his actions and his words as well. A lot of people still think it’s a death sentence to this day.
Compromised immune system… This is how I look at my body. I have what I would classify as a compromised immune system. In other words there is a compromise going on. Clearly that is not the way it originally worked when they put it down there. You see cracks over here and it’s broken and it’s not together anymore and it’s got some debris over there. I look at this like my body. This is what has happened. My body is trying to do the best that it can to repair itself or keep it from getting any more damaged, but it doesn’t look perfect the way it was when it was originally laid down. There is a compromise going on.